always been official product tester at a factory that makes inflatable bouncy castles, or to be the guy who rides on the back of the garbage truck. But famous author didnât sound half-bad either. Simon said the words out loud to see how they sounded all strung together. He even added a few extras for effect. âWorld famous, award-winning author Simon Bartholomew Cheeseman.â
âItâs got a nice ring to it,â said Gravy-Face Roy.
âWho asked you?â said Steve. It seemed the two sock puppets had gotten off on the wrong foot, so to speak.
As the rival socks continued to bicker, it seemed that Pinky was no fonder of this Steve than she had been of the original, and she displayed her lack of affection for the puppet by snarling each time he spoke in his trademark squeaky voice, which sounded not unlike a squealing hamster running on a wheel that was in desperate need of oil.
Sullivan interrupted all the quarreling, snarling, and squeaking by launching into a series of stories about his grandfather. It was as if heâd been waiting years to tell them and could barely speak fast enough to get them out. He told the one about the time they went to the fair together and got cotton candy. Then there was the time Simon took him to the carnival and they got cotton candy. In fact, most of the stories involved cotton candy in one way or another.
âHow about me?â asked Chip, both excited and apprehensive at the thought of knowing what his future held in store. âWhat happens to me?â
âIf youâre my grandpa Cheesemanâs older brother, you must be my great-uncle, Jason,â said Sullivan.
Hearing his real name for the first time since this whole ordeal began had a liberating effect on fourteen-year-old Jason Cheeseman. Though changing names every few weeks had made being on the run slightly more bearable, it felt nice now just to be himself again. âThatâs my name,â he said with a smile. âSo, what happens to me? Go ahead, I can take it.â
âI canât tell you,â said Sullivan.
âYou canât tell me?â Suddenly Jason was awash with dread. Why couldnât his great-nephew tell him about his future? What had happened that was so horrible that he refused to share it?
âWell, I suppose I could tell you,â said Sullivan with a wink. âBut Iâd rather show you. Come on.â
Sullivan led the way, and the others followed him down the long, stone hallway to the tiny room at the very back. He walked to the lonely box sitting in the middle of the room, then bent over and reached inside. âThis is my box of keepsakes and good luck charms and stuff,â he said.
âThatâs where I found Steve,â said Simon.
Sullivan pulled something from the box, turned, and threw it to Jason, who snatched it out of the air with one hand. Jason looked at the baseball and, when he turned it over in his palm, smiled at what he saw. It wasnât just a baseball; it was an
baseball, and it had been autographed by none other than Jason Cheeseman.
âSo, does this mean â¦?â
âIt totally does,â said Sullivan. âIt means youâre one of only two players to have ever thrown a no-hitter in the World Series.â
âWow.â Chip could scarcely contain his excitement. Just knowing he was destined to fulfill his lifelong ambition made him feel as if he could fly.
âYou can keep that,â said Sullivan. âItâll inspire you during tough times.â
Jason rolled the ball over and over in his right hand,practicing the special grip for each of the pitches his father had taught him to throw using scientific principles.
âWhat about me?â asked Penny. âWhat about my future?â
Sullivan smiled warmly at Penny. âMy great-aunt Catherine,â he said. He placed his hand on her shoulder, and his face adopted a look of immense pride and respect.